Tag Archives: New York

On a cake and a prayer

In the small hours of Tuesday morning, I settled into bed and into my 15 minutes of  dedicated, purposeful reading with my current book   Heaven on Earth by Stephanie Dowrick. My bookmark was placed, from the night before, at page 118, and, when I pressed open the pages, this is the prayer that greeted me:

Watch, dear Lord, with those
who wake or weep tonight.
Let your angels guard those who sleep.
Tend the sick.
Refresh the weary.
Comfort those who are dying.
Soothe the suffering.
Have mercy on those who are distressed.
We ask this for your love’s sake.

Augustine of Hippo

I know very little about Augustine of Hippo. I don’t know exactly when he wrote this prayer.  I don’t even know if I like him, or his ideas, or would have liked him way back when. But it moved me deeply  that someone, a hugely long time ago (somewhere, perhaps between 386 and 430 AD) wrote the words that I needed to hear, that I needed formulated for me, in 2014.  It moved me that, on the very day I needed them most, they appeared before me. But, in truth, it was more than being moved; it was more as if Augustine himself,  scroll in hand,  had reached through the ages and said, “Here, take this, I wrote it for you, right here, right now.” Was it a miracle ? (Unlikely)  Was it timely? (Certainly)  Did the prayer work? Possibly, but evidence suggests not for the bone-tired sister I had in mind. But, for me, it did bring some peace and rest and I have repeated this prayer every night since.

Last Sunday, the recent, particularly stressful weeks of  letting ‘nature’ take its heart-breaking course with my daughter’s mental health came to the inevitable conclusion; and she was hospitalized for the sake of her health and well-being. No fun for anyone: not for the daughter, crying uncontrollably; not for the mother listening, helplessly, on the other end of a phone thousands of kilometres away, across land and sea, and not for the on-the-spot aunt, trying to cope, in utter weariness, with the complex needs of elderly, frail parents and a troubled niece.

A few days on, a few prayers later, another phone call to my daughter and I hear words that cradle me: “Mum, they keep bringing us little cakes. They are so delicious. It’s so good to eat cake again. ”  Thank you, thank you, anyone who wants to be thanked. My daughter is delighting in cake once more.

This is only the beginning for my daughter’s recovery. It may even be a false start. Years of less than perfect mental hygiene do not vanish at the pop of a pill or two. Many of the bloggers I follow are affected by mental health issues; by health issues; many are weary; many are caring for family; many are grieving. There is nothing unusual about these situations. They are part of the human condition. As Stephanie Dowrick writes  on page 150 ” First Noble Truth: In life there is suffering.  We free ourselves whenever we ask:  “How can I help?”

And, I would add, by asking, “How can we help each other?”  By being “Angels” for each other? By prayer, by care?  By simply being there, and here, and taking time to listen, to read, to be compassionate and to lighten each other’s load? And by reminding ourselves, over and over, that in life we can also find joy and laughter and fun….and cake. 🙂

Helping  make the Christmas Cake; circa 1988, New York

Helping make the Christmas Cake; circa 1988, New York

© silkannthreades

 

Christmas in past years

Many of us will have a photo, like this one, which I found whilst rummaging in my store cupboard this morning.

Sixties Santa and Sixties Me ?

Sixties Santa and Sixties Me ?

I think I am about 4 years old in this photo which would date this Santa meeting  to Christmas 1960. However  this date of 1960 doesn’t gel with the information I have on the photographer,   J Ambrose, who was apparently at  137 Armagh Street only in  1962 and 1964.  So, perhaps, I am older in the photo than I imagine I was.

Early Photographers in Christchurch

Early Photographers in Christchurch

I don’t remember meeting Santa, or having my photo taken with him, but I do remember that short-sleeved cardigan I am wearing. I loved it, with its lacy pattern, soft beige wool and shiny, faceted, glass-like buttons. My mother’s sister made it for me, and my only sadness over it was that it was hardly ever cold enough to wear it in my childhood homeland, Fiji.

The Santa photo, though, was not taken in Fiji. It was, I expect, taken during one of our ‘home-leave’ visits to Christchurch. And, I am thinking that Santa and I probably greeted each other at Santa’s corner in Hay’s Department Store  “Hay’s – the friendly store where everything is different!” http://lostchristchurch.org.nz/hays-building-oxford-terrace-c-1959    Hay’s no longer exists. It became Farmers in 1987. And the buildings which Hay’s, followed by Farmers, used to occupy no longer exist either, because they  had to be demolished after the earthquakes  (2010/2011).

Now, moving on from the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern one… as Santa must do, for, after all, we are amongst the first in the world to see Christmas Day.  [ Which begs the question, “Why doesn’t Santa live at  the South Pole?” It would be more convenient and fuel-efficient, considering the direction he has to travel.]

I digress….here are some photos of my first ever Northern Hemisphere winter.  This is the house in Valhalla, Westchester County, New York, where I spent Christmas in 1977. We didn’t, to my great disappointment, have a White Christmas, but, in early 1978, when this photo was taken, Mother Nature made up for the lack of snow on Christmas Day.

Valhalla 1978

Valhalla 1978

In February of that year,  I went from scarcely knowing what snow looked like to experiencing the  Blizzard of 1978.  I don’t believe I will ever forget the extraordinary day we walked in the middle of Second Avenue, Manhattan.  It was completely, and eerily, devoid of traffic. I didn’t own a pair of boots back then but I did have wooden clogs, with rubber heel and toe plates, and I found they were excellent  for negotiating the slippery pavements. ( Yay for Clogs! Does Santa have clogs? He should 🙂  Sinterklaas has a pair, I am sure.)

And here is the final photo from the cupboard rummage; me, in the aftermath of the Blizzard, in my friend’s garden at Valhalla. I cut a Santa like figure, don’t you think?

Is Santa lost?

Is it Santa?

© silkannthreades